In this Recruiter Spotlight, Aditi Jenkins interviews Jenny Fox, Managing Director and Executive Search Director of JSD Consulting, specialising in the recruitment of managers and leaders across the value chain in Food and Food Ingredients, B2B Equipment and Packaging, and Healthcare and Pharmaceutical.
Check out the interview to learn about Jenny’s background, the impact of COVID-19 on her business, and how she decided to invest in FileFinder Executive Search Software.
Watch the video, or read the transcript below:
This is Recruiter Spotlight, brought to you by Ikiru People. My name is Aditi Jenkins and today I have the pleasure to have Jenny Fox from JSD Consulting. She leads the JSD team, fostering values of high integrity, professionalism, continuously improving process and personnel development. So welcome, Jenny, thank you for being with us this morning.
Hello Aditi, thank you for having me.
Our pleasure. I know that you grew up in South Africa. You were educated there. Tell me a little bit about your background and experience working in executive recruiting – how did you come into this industry?
Yes, I did grow up in South Africa. In the late 80s, my partner and I came to England. I had a very traditional background in HR prior to arriving here. But when I got to England, I didn’t have the professional qualifications that were needed to get into a standard HR role here. But I joined a wonderful organization called the Careers Research and Advisory Centre, or CRAC. CRAC is in Cambridge, it’s a not-for-profit organization, and I worked very closely with higher education organizations, helping graduates to think about their career options. We ran courses called Insight into Management, working closely with some great multinational organizations.
And I suppose that’s where I first started to engage a little bit with the corporate world of recruitment, rather than thinking about career development. After seven years at CRAC, I joined a recruiting business, which at the time was called MRI Worldwide and I joined part of an MRI franchise. I started working in an area that I understood, in the area of FMCG. I’ve worked with some of those companies when I was at CRAC, and I saw my role as an extension of the work that we’ve been doing at CRAC, helping people to think about their careers. For me, headhunting is very much about presenting an opportunity to somebody and helping them to open their minds.
When my Managing Director decided to retire, I decided to buy JSD Consulting, which was no longer part of the MRI franchise. I bought the business because we’d invest lots of money building up a great pool of candidates, but I suppose where I felt the business needed help was in terms of investment in people, in processes, and in technology.
We work largely within FMCG and an even smaller niche. We tend to work with food manufacturers, mostly manufacturers who are involved in selling to the retail side of food manufacturing such as Tesco, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s. In addition to that, we work with businesses that are involved in contract services and contract manufacturing. Those businesses can be in food, but we work with some businesses in pharmaceuticals and we work with some businesses who are involved in personal care. Those are sort of our core areas, food and pharma. And then we have a small niche in the manufacturing of machinery for food packing as well.
How has COVID-19 impacted your business in 2020?
It was quite interesting; on the very day that the first lockdown was announced. We were due to have five people go out to interviews on that day, on the 24th of March, or whatever it was. And all of those meetings were cancelled. It was quite shocking really, and as a small business, you’re kind of looking at things and having a bit of a panic attack.
I have to say, the government swept in, which was very fortunate and really helped in terms of my own ability to take a breath and not to panic. So COVID-19, for us, started up locally, it went into a period of great dynamism, which was for me, really exhausting, because at that stage, we were a very, very small team, and then it allowed a period of significant growth. We grew from a small team to a team of six in total. We’re now down to a team of five because one of our people was just on a six-month contract, and when the time came to replace her, we were in full lockdown again, and I wanted to wait before replacing her. We’ve got a plan for further growth this year, all things being equal.
What made you invest in FileFinder?
If we go back to my early story, what JSD needed when I bought it was a little bit of an overhaul. We had a great piece of CRM software, but it was on a very, very old platform. We knew that we needed to find something to replace it. I went around looking at all sorts of recruitment software, but most recruiting software is very focused on running a day-to-day agenda, like a big diary almost. What it doesn’t do, which is for us as headhunters is so critical, is to give you the opportunity to manage a project.
And in the end, we chose FileFinder and I was grateful for the early implementation part of the process. As I said we had a system that had quite good functionality for what we were doing, and so we were really wanting to replicate that. The FileFinder projects team were very good at really trying to analyze what it was that we did, how we did it and trying to replicate that functionality in FileFinder for us. I think the project management team were extremely good at getting us through the process and implementing the product. It was a seamless process.
In addition to that, FileFinder has always been very reliable. Because it is a very modern system on a modern platform, we don’t have any issues with reliability. And, if there are significant upgrades that need to happen, we get very good warning around those. I think we have great support with FileFinder if we need it. I don’t think there’s any such thing as the perfect tool, but what I have found is that the team is very receptive to questions and comments.
We have been able to be involved in a number of development areas with FileFinder. I think if you’re open to seeing your CRM supplier as a partner, you can get a lot out of the relationship, and we have tried to do that. So, if there is something we feel could be better, we come to you and ask about it. I think the business has always been very positive with us. We find it a very useful tool, and we enjoy the relationships we have, as well.
Well, the feeling is mutual. I can say it from a personal note. You know that I was in training until very recently because due to COVID-19, things have changed. I still do training of course, but when I took the Client Success Manager role, you were the first person that I called. I have had a partnership with you to begin, as a trainer. To me, a partnership is all about understanding your needs. It’s a collaboration.
Yes – for me, it’s the same with any good relationship with our clients. The more they’re prepared to challenge us and share with us what it is they’re trying to do, the better we can be for them.
What’s your outlook above the Search industry post-COVID-19?
Well, we’ve had to change the way we work. We’ve had to really think about how we use this video technology to be able to interrogate clients and candidates, to make sure we understand in the first instance, what it is our client wants us to do. And the second instance, what sort of people we need to look at. It’s trying to do the same things that we’ve always done with our candidates, which is to meet them at various times and in various ways.
So, I tend to use Teams for some of the interfaces, but then sometimes we’ll do a later afternoon unplanned phone call on Facetime or WhatsApp because we’re wanting to catch people in all sorts of different ways to see how patient they are, how polite, how professional. So, there’s no point in always going for a planned approach.
The one area where I think there is still some work to be done is working with our clients in the area of onboarding, because I think that the pressure on the industries that we work in is massive at the moment, particularly in the areas of manufacturing and development – the way the companies are having to rotate staff, manage social distancing and all these sorts of things, means that there is just a lot of time pressure on them. So, for somebody new into the organization, I think it is very challenging. It’s not just about going through an induction. It’s about giving people their time to get to know the business and the people that they work with. My observation is that people need more time and that a lot of the businesses that we work with don’t have that time. So it creates some pressure. And I think that’s an area where we still have to think about.
I’m kind of hoping that once people get vaccinated and we can get back to slightly more normalized ways of working, some of these issues will iron themselves out a bit. But we just don’t know. Chris Whitty said that we should expect a third wave of COVID-19, and I think we’ve learned over the past year that we don’t operate in a world of certainty anymore. Almost a year ago now, when we had this announcement that we were going to go into a lockdown, Boris Johnson told us, you’ve got to do this for three weeks. And here we are a year later.
I haven’t hugged any of my friends since last March and it feels really odd. I haven’t seen my family, my parents are still in South Africa. My brother lives in the Middle East. It’s a very fluid and unpredictable process. So, from my point of view, yes we’re hoping that things will normalize. And I think that is the case. Then some of these issues around onboarding will be removed. But I think that we also have to be very adaptable, to go with the flow.
And I think that really, one of the important aspects of all of the next few months is that we recognize that this might be a longer process than we really want it to be and that we need to take time, and we need to give ourselves time to have a holiday. I’ve just come off two days of holiday, and I have to say it’s done me the power of good. But I hadn’t taken a holiday really since the Christmas break, properly. I think just generally talking to people, there seems to be a high level of exhaustion around the place. So, one of my things is now to think about how do we take time and just do different things? I think it’ll be easier because the clocks are going to change soon, the sun will shine and then we will be in a great position to work, to tackle whatever comes over the summer.
Well, I really wanted to thank you for this wonderful interview, it was very a really good perspective.
Thank you, Aditi. I’ve enjoyed chatting with you, as I always do.